Cavaliers Notebook

U-Va. Has Three Players Competing for Its Starting Quarterback Job

Jameel Sewell warms up his arm during practice. (Andrew Shurtleff - AP)
Jameel Sewell warms up his arm during practice. (Andrew Shurtleff - AP) ( )
By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 13, 2009

Virginia entered preseason camp with a three-headed quarterback competition involving Jameel Sewell, Marc Verica and Vic Hall, a converted cornerback whose only college experience under center came in last season's finale against Virginia Tech. But Hall has received only an offensive playbook this season -- an indication of Coach Al Groh's plans for the senior -- and has been taking reps with the first team at camp.

That doesn't mean Sewell and Verica aren't still in the mix. Sewell has started 22 games and led Virginia to a 9-4 record and a Gator Bowl appearance in 2007, but he missed last season because of academic reasons.

Verica replaced Peter Lalich three games into last season after Lalich was dismissed from the team. Verica helped the Cavaliers rebound from a 1-3 start before struggling in the season's final month.

Sewell's "timing is still coming around a little bit," Groh said. "He's doing a good job, as are the other two. Vic is becoming smoother and Marc's decisions are moving faster."

One player who will not figure into the quarterback competition is redshirt freshman Riko Smalls, who came to Virginia as a quarterback but has been practicing as a wide receiver during camp. The move does not preclude Smalls from returning to quarterback at some point during his career, but Groh viewed it as a way to get Smalls on the field more quickly.

Groh compared the move to that of former Virginia quarterback Marques Hagans, now with the Washington Redskins. As a backup to Matt Schaub, Hagans moved around the offense before becoming the starting quarterback.

"Riko has real good athletic skill," Groh said. "It's as much [about] the attributes of Hall, Sewell and Verica. In the short term, that's the best opportunity for Riko."

McLeod Grows on Groh

During spring practices, safety Rodney McLeod earned praise from Groh on a seemingly daily basis. The sophomore from DeMatha has continued where he left off and remains one of the standout players through the first few days of fall camp.

"He's quickly becoming one of the best players on the team," Groh said.

Those words carry weight when coming from Groh, who would sooner limit expectations than tout a player who has not yet started a game. McLeod played the final nine games last season in the nickel formation and on special teams. He was presented the award for the team's top first-year player and is penciled in as the one of the two starting safeties this season.

"It's definitely a good thing," McLeod said of the expectations. "I guess [Groh] just likes my mentality on the field, my attitude. I guess coming from a winning program like DeMatha, I bring that winning attitude to the team."

Meet the Cavs

Thursday is the public's final opportunity to watch Virginia practice this season. Practice opens at 2:30 p.m. behind the McCue Center. Fans can meet the 2009 players and coaches at the annual meet the team day on Sunday at 3 p.m. at Scott Stadium.

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